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The Cultural Contradictions Of Capitalism: 20th Anniversary Edition Paperback – October 18, 1996

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Since its original publication in 1976, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism has been hailed as an intellectual tour de force that redefines how we think about the relationship among econmomics, culture, and social change. Daniel Bell, the author of such other modern classics as The End of Ideology and The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, argues that the unbounded drive of modern capitalism undermines the moral foundations of the original Protestant ethic that ushered in capitalism itself. In a major new afterword, Bell offers a bracing perspective on contemporary Western society, from the end of the Cold War to the rise and fall of postmodernism, revealing the crucial cultural fault lines we face as the twenty-first century approaches.

About the Author

Daniel Bell is the Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University and Scholar-in-Residence at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of editor of 17 books, two of which, The End of Ideology and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, were listed among the 100 Most Influential Books since the Second World War (TLS, October 1995).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Anniversary edition (October 18, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465014992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465014996
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Daniel Bell's book highlights trends in modern Western culture that tend to go unnoticed, to our own detriment. Namely, that the driving forces that created modernity have been left unchecked to reach the negative end of their logical conclusions. The "Protestant work ethic" has been abandoned for hedonistic consumerism, and traditional cultural values have been eroded by egoism and nihilism. Very, very important points that we, as a society, need to think consciously and act decisively about. In this sense, CULTURAL CONTRADITCTIONS is an important book.

However, the book is far from perfect. One of the most irritating aspects of this book is that it focuses primarily on art. Bell spends far too much time lamenting the demise of--what I guess you could call--"classicism" or traditionalism in art. Intellectually interesting in its own right, but much of this discussion should have been left for another book.

Second, while Bell does a great job dissecting the problems, he is pretty scanty on solutions. He offers the tradional ineffectual intellectual solutions such as returing to "traditional" values and a renunciation of unrestrained consumerism.

Not surprisingly, he also calls for a return to religion. Religion is, after all, a significant pillar in Western culture, despite increasing secularism. Even if everyone stoped going to church or synagogue, we would still tacitly adhere to a kind of Judeo-Christian value system. Interestingly for someone so interested in religion, Bell ignores the contradiction in the "bourgeois establishment's" emphasis on religion--with its concern for the poor, the needy, and the spiritual realm--with our culture's obsession with the rich, the beautiful, and the profane. Would have made for an interesting discussion.
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Format: Paperback
Classic study by an outstanding scholar covering many interesting topics and issues in modern American society. As Bell has noted, America is a country where seemingly paradoxical cultural traits often find happy marriages, and to some extent, even happier divorces. He doesn't mention this, but Japan is an example of another country where this often occurs. Although the U.S. and Japan are very different, they share a common ability to incorporate useful and pragmatic cultural ideas and traits even if they are in conflict with the dominant ideology. We Americans are a practical people, after all. :-) Bell's knowledge of many important sociologists and other thinkers is deep, and he is able to use their insights in novel and creative ways. I also found his discussion of The Young Intellectuals at Harvard, such as Van Wyck Brooks, and their criticisms of middle American culture, such as the boring mediocrity of "Bourgeois sex," to be quite entertaining. My only fault with the book is Bell's style may be a little bit forbidding for some people, but a little patience here is more than rewarded. Qualitative sociology doesn't get any better than this.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good book. The author goes of on a long tangent about art and how it was affected by the cultural shift in economics. Some of the book was over my head I admit but some of the material was off topic and the author didn't really tie the material together but if you read the whole book ( a very dense read) you get the idea of how things got screwed up in America and how the shift happened.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An entertaining display of scholarship largely irrelevant to the topic at hand. You can see why he resents Marshal McLuhan's Understanding Media. Seems a waste of a good book title. If he could have based his argument on morality and followed it though, he might have got somewhere.
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Format: Paperback
Everyone, more or less, finds themselves in Babylon at the end of this book. Instead of having a culture that is small enough to evaluate everything, the rush into the political cockpit has snobbish dog outfits competing in a popularity contest that matches the desire to think about mixing earth and hell in Book 2 of Paradise Lost by John Milton. Those who are united in despair combine their interests to replace whatever traditions have made someone else the top dog. In a global electronic situation, social networks seek rules to limit themselves according to the ego boundaries desired by leader trickle that signals more troubled waters.

My own interest in music as an appoggiatura to some form of escape from its own anarchy sees this book as helpful for getting up on any kind of parvenu leapfrog.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Had to read with a dictionary in hand...very scholarly, but better if an economics major.
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